Sunday, August 8, 2010

How I Became Green - Thanks to Captain Planet

In the 1980s there was a small but growing awareness of environmental issues in the world, thanks largely to groups such as Greenpeace with media campaigns that spoke of clearcutting in the Amazon rainforest. While I was basically aware of what was going on down there I didn't pay it much heed because, frankly, there seemed to be very little I could do about it.

At the time we were buying wood from a fellow named Andrew Poynter of A&M Wood Specialty. Andrew imported exotic woods for custom woodworkers such as myself, and although our volume of wood use was small we did know we were playing some kind of a role in the problem.

In tandem with fellow pioneers such as Scott Landis of the Woodworkers' Alliance for Rainforest Protection (W.A.R.P.) Andrew ended playing an instrumental role in educating woodworkers such as myself on what the problem was, in the hope of finding a solution.

The dialogues and grassroots efforts of groups such as Greenpeace, The Sierra Club, World Wildlife Fund and W.A.R.P. inevitably led to recognition of the need for standards development which, in turn, resulted in the creation of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) in 1993.
But in the interim, and until FSC got off the ground, several rudimentary efforts were made to protect the Amazon. One of these initiatives was the "Guardian of the Amazon" program -sponsored by World Wildlife Fund. The gist of this effort was that with every purchase of wood made you would "adopt" an acre of tropical rainforest in order to protect it from clearcutting. In practical terms, support of this program was one of our first "green" initiatives as custom furniture makers. But our support at the time was a proverbial drop in the bucket at best, given the relative low volumes of wood we were actually purchasing.

The thing that really catalyzed my involvement with forest sustainability took place later in 1991, when my oldest son was about 4 years old. He was watching a television show called "Captain Planet", and in this one particular episode the team of environmental superheroes ended up fighting a bad guy who was destroying the rainforest with a giant machine - in order to make furniture.

Since my son knew I made furniture for a living he wondered if maybe I, too, was a bad guy.

Visibly upset, he asked me point blank if the furniture I was making was also destroying the rainforest.

That became without question a moment of truth for me, because in my desire to answer him as honestly as possible I came to realize that I really didn't know all that much about the wood I was using, or where it was coming really from.

This was the initial seed to be planted that later manifested for me as a passion for sustainability.

It wasn't until 1996 that the seed really took root with the felling of K'iid K'iyaas on Haida Gwaii.

1 comment:

  1. Out of the mouths of babes... Important message and Lovely story!